Curaçao  is an island in the Netherlands Antilles, two island groups in the Caribbean Sea - one includes Curaçao and Bonaire, north of Venezuela; the other is east of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Curaçao is among the group known as the ABC Islands alongside Aruba and Bonaire. This trio is located near Venezuela, and are considered to be outside the Caribbean's so-called "hurricane zone." This means that vacations to the island are rarely disrupted by such tropical storms.
Punda, Willemstad taken from Otrobanda
One of the most notable things about the island is its culture. This Dutch island features the pastel colors and building styles you'd find in the Netherlands. However, the people of the island have developed a culture, and even a language, of their own. Papiamentu (often spelled Papiamento) is the island's native Creole.
The native language of Curaçao is Papiamentu, which is a richly unique mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, English, Dutch, African and other languages. Most people from the island speak this language in addition to Dutch, English, and Spanish. Almost everyone speaks English.
Those who want to travel by air can enter at Curaçao's airport, Hato International Airport (CUR). It is located in Plaza Margareth Abraham, on the North side of the island, not far from the capital of Willemstad. Services most International and regional carriers. To contact the airport by phone, call 599-9-888-0101.
Cruise ships arrive at Curaçao Mega Pier or the Curaçao Cruise Terminal. From these ports it's just a short journey to many of the island's popular tourist destinations. Travelers can also enjoy nearby shopping at duty-free stores. Larger ships will arrive at the Mega Pier, and smaller ships will dock at the Cruise Terminal.
Sailors can enter at ports in Willemstad and has various marinas which seafaring travelers can dock their ships.
Cars can be rented for about $45 U.S. per day, from a variety of merchants at the Hato Airport and across the island. Driving in Willemstad is pretty similar to most Caribbean locations, with aggressive drivers, loosely enforced traffic laws, and driving on the right side. Signs will be in Dutch and European traffic markings. If you are involved in an accident, local laws prohibit moving your car. You'll need to dial 199 for road service. Do watch out for road hazards, such as donkeys, goats, and iguanas.
If public transit isn't your style, and you don't want to rent your own car, taxis are another popular and easy-to-find option. They, too, are marked, and their plates read "TX." Some taxi drivers will even be your tour guide for the day, if you ask. But remember to agree on a fee before heading out.
There are two types of buses on the island, BUS. and Konvoi. The easiest way to ride is to go to one of the two bus stations in Willemstad. These include Otrobanda Station, located across the street from the Rif Fort (see Willemstad) and Punda Station, at the post office, across from the Circle Market. For the most part, the Punda bus station serves stops along the Eastern side of the ring, and to the East including Salina, Zelandia, Mambo, while the Otrobanda station serves destinations West of the Bay, to include the Airport, Piscadera and even Westpunt. The destinations do not typically overlap, so a 10-15 minute walk between stations may be necessary for cross island trips.
- Konvoi are large metro-style buses which run infrequently between major points in the city. Prices and routes are set at about 2 NAf.
- BUS., on the other hand, are 9-12 passenger vans which look a lot like a taxi. You can spot a BUS. by a cardboard cutout in the front windshield listing a number of its stops, instead of the yellow Taxi sign in the windshield or on the roof.
Unlike taxis, the BUS. prices are not negotiable (1-3 NAf), but the route is. A common practice with bus drivers is to negotiate how close the driver can take you to your destination. Be sure to ask the bus driver if the bus stops near your destination before entering. You can pay the driver while the BUS. is en route, or before exiting the bus. You can board a bus anywhere on the island by waiting at one of the ubiquitous yellow 'Bushalte' signs and waiving at a coming BUS. or Konvoi. Taxi drivers will also try to lure you in. So make sure to look at the sign in the window or a license plate (that says BUS.) to avoid paying high taxi fares. The bus schedule varies, from about 6AM-8PM for most stops, and until 11pm or even midnight (and sometimes later) to Salina and Mambo. If you are ever lost during daylight hours, just find a yellow bushalte sign, and the bus should take you to either Punda or Otrobanda.
Ferries are a great way for shoppers to get to and from some of the island's main shopping areas.
- Museum Kura Hulanda, Willemstad. Phone: +5999 434 7765 . Open Daily from 10:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. This anthropological museum chronicles the African slave trade as well as the cultures of Curacao. Entry: $9
- Postal Museum, Willemstad.
- Maritime Museum, Willemstad.
- Queen Emma Bridge (a.k.a "The Swinging Old Lady"), Willemstad. A floating pontoon bridge that links the "Punda" (Point Side) and the "Otrobanda" (Other Side) of the Willemstad across the Sint Annabaai Channel. You get to see the bridge open and close to away marine traffic into St. Anna Bay. (In the event the bridge is open for a prolonged time, there is a ferry service across the channel as well.)
- Queen Juliana Bridge, Willemstad. At 185 feet, this is highest bridge in the Caribbean (and one of the tallest bridges in the world.) The bridge overlooks St. Anna Bay as well as Willemstad. Note: The observation platform has been closed to pedestrian traffic.
- Christoffel National Park, West Point , Phone: +(5999)/864-0363, . A national park that is run by the by the Carmabi Foundation. Christoffel National Park is home to Boca Grandi, Indian caves where you can see paintings left by the Arawak Indians and Mount Christoffel. (At 1292 feet high, Mount Christoffel is the highest point in Curacao.)
- Shete Boka National Park, West Point, Phone +(5999)/864-0444, . A national park also run by the by the Carmabi Foundation, Shete Boka is home to the "7 boca's" including Boca Tabla and Boca Pistol (also known as "The Shooting Pistol") In season, some of the boca's serve as sea turtle breeding grounds.
- Curacao Sea Aquarium, Bapor Kibra Z/N, Phone: +(5999)/461-6666, . Home of the Dolphin Academy. This is one of the most popular attractions in Curacao. If you wish to do a Dolphin activity book as early as possible! $entry price (depends on activity you choose BUT paying for an activity (such as something at the Dolphin Academy) gets you entry to all of the Aquarium.
- Hato Caves, F.D. Rooseveltweg Z/N, Phone: +(5999)/868-0379. Open 7 days a week, with tours 2 times a day. Coral and limestone caves that was carved out below the sea and born when the sea level dropped. There are beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations as well as water pools and a waterfall. The cave is also home to a colony long nose fruit bats. (Because of the colony, photography is limited and not allowed in certain chambers.)
- Snorkeling and Diving at Curacao's Marine Park The complete southwestern side of Curacao is one large coral reef and marine park. In the north you can dive at the Banda Abou National Park, in the center at the Central Curacao Underwater Park and in the south at the Curacau Underwater Park. Curacao offers plenty of dive sites, from easy shore dives, pristine coral bay dives to sheer drop-offs especially in the southeast.
- Curacao Ostrich & Game Farm, Santa Catharina. Phone: +(5999)/747-2777. . The Curacao Ostrich Farm is one of the biggest Ostrich farms outside Africa. The tour takes you around the ostrich pens and incubator. Meat from this farm is shipped to Aruba (Ostrich is a red meat, which is high in protein and low in fat.)
- Fort Amsterdam, Punda Side, Willemstad. The seat of the Netherlands Antilles, Fort Amsterdam sits at the mouth of the harbor at the end of the Sint Annabaai Channel on the point. The complex has restaurants, shops as well as the Governors Palace.
- Fort Nassau, Willemstad. Fort Nassau was built on the hill to defend both St. Anna Bay as well as part of the city of Willemstad. The fort is open for tours and there is also a restaurant that overlooks the bay.
- The Floating Market, Punda Side, Willemstad. The "floating market" is actually a mini boat fleet that comes in from Venezuela and sells ultra fresh fish and fruit at the best prices. You'll find it roughly one block north of the Queen Juliana Bridge on the east side of the harbor mouth.
- Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, ☎ 599-9-4611067, . The oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere, with a sand floor and museum containing ancient artifacts.
Curaçao's beaches are concentrated on the southern coast, especially the western side. Find these from Rif St. Marie up to Westpunt.
- Playa Kalki, also know as Alice in Wonderland, is located at the far west end of the island past the town of Westpunt. Kura Hulanda Lodge has a restaurant at the beach and Ocean Encounters West which is a full service dive shop. For a small fee, you have use of a dive locker for storage of personal items while diving/snorkeling and use of fresh water showers and equipment cleaning area.
- Playa Grote Kenapa, also known as Big Knip is a large sand beach west of the town of Lagun.
- Playa Kleine Kenapa, also known as Little Knip is another beach past the town of Lagun. It is a nice secluded beach with plenty of shade trees if you desire to stay out of the direct sun. The bar/restaurant on this site operates on a sporadic schedule, so visit prepared.
- Playa Jeremi is a small secluded beach slightly north of Lagun. There are no facilities here.
- Playa Lagun, is a secluded bay towards the western end of the island in the town of Lagun. It is a small sandy beach on a rectangular shaped bay with tall cliffs on each side. The waters adjacent to the cliffs is excellent place for snorkeling. Both sides of the bay along the cliffs are teaming with a wide variety of marine life and corals. The left side of the bay has a greater variety of underwater structure for a better experience. The beach has the Discover Diving Curaçao dive shop which also has a small restaurant.
- Playa Porto Mari is a large beach with a full service restaurant, and a complete dive shop including fresh water showers and restrooms operated by Porto Mari Sports
- Cas Abao is a beach on a plantation. It is a long stretched sandy beach with lots of facilities including huts, beach chairs, restaurant, fresh water showers and bathrooms.
- Daaibooi Baai is near Habitat in Rif st. Marie. Limited facilities. Huts, restrooms, grill area. Beautiful protected cove with calm waters. Avg depth: 20m
- Hook's Hut is located on the Piscadera Bay. The location is a short drive a few miles west of downtown Willemstad near The Marriott and Hilton hotels. It has many beach amenities including showers/bathrooms, Hook's dive center and an excellent full service restaurant.
- Habitat Beach is located in Rif St. Marie on the SW coast. It is Curacao's Newest beach and has a full service Dive Operator, DiveVersity, Habitat Dive Hotel, Oceans Restaurant, and in the gated community of Coral Estate.
- Kontiki Beach is is about a ten minute drive east from downtown Willemstad near Breezes hotel. Kontiki is a full service beach offering watersports, shops, beachbar and a restaurant. It is also serviced by Ocean Encounters dive center. Can get very crowded.
- Mambo Beach Is next door to Kontiki beach and is the place where locals and tourists alike visit for the nightlife partying here.
- Barbara Beach Private beach and future home to the Hyatt Hotel.
The Dutch Antilles Guilder(also called Florin) is the official currency, but The Euro(€) and U.S. Dollar($) are readily accepted. Automatic teller machines are widely available throughout the island, and many machines will dispense Guilders and the U.S. Dollar. Currency can generally be exchanged at local hotels, casinos and places of business. The exchange rate is generally pegged to the USD and stable. It is unlikely for tourists to be taken advantage when changing currency, but it is best to be aware of the current rates prior to arrival.
There are a plethora of random shops and markets around Willemstad offering clothing, souvenirs, crafts, and other goods. These include a duty free "enclave" in the downtown area. Offerings emphasize European goods, to include excellent jewelry, timepieces/watches and linens, plus the usual collection of souvenir shops. A water front market lies nearby that's packed with fresh foods and flowers, best seen or shopped in the mornings.
On Sundays, however most businesses except restaurants in the city are closed.
Waterfront Dining Willemstad
Local cuisine in Curaçao is a mixture of European, West-Indian and East Asian (particularly Indonesian) flavours. Dutch influences are found in the use of cheeses, bread and seafood, which are also important in Curaçaoan food. Indonesian cuisine, a migrant from Suriname, another of the Netherlands' former colonies, can be found on the island, and explains the widespread availability of Sate and Peanut sauce along with the islands more Caribbean fare. Also, Chinese "snacks" can be found all over the island serving cheap Chinese food. They cater mostly to locals, but most serve good food.
Curacao is littered with 'Snacks,' small bar restaurants which serve Chinese Food. These are typically inexpensive, double as convenience stores and bars, and are typically open later than most other restaurants which cater to local (rather than European) patrons.
- Plasa Bieu, located in Punda, about 300 meters ENE of the floating bridge in Punda, is the favorite lunch spot of most, if not all, of the island's local-born population working in Punda. Open M-F, 10am-3pm, the Plasa Bieu has about five restaurants within it, serving Chinese, Jamaican and Krioyo (local) food. Try the Cabritu Stoba (stewed goat) at Grasia di Dios, for an excellent example of the island's local cuisine, at one of the only restaurants in Punda which offer it. 8-14 NAf
- Downtown Cafe at the Hotel Estoril Breedestraat 179 (O), located 200 west of the Arti Supermarket, on the Otrobanda Side's main shopping strip (the Breedestrat/Roodeweg) Open seven days per week 7A-8P, 'el Estoril,' as the locals calls it, packs its seven or so tables full from about 10am-4pm, with Venezuelan, Colombian and Dominican expats. The Estoril serves a mix of local and latin dishes, all served in a more typically latin style. Order at the bar and sit down when a seat becomes available. You'll be expected to share a table if your party cannot fill it. 8-20 NAf.
- Gouverneur de Rouville is a popular restaurant in Willemstad that serves a variety of continental European dishes in a wonderful atmosphere. Located Just north of the floating bridge on the Otrobanda Side, 25-45NAf.
- Oceans Restaurant is located at Habitat Dive Resort in Rif. St. Marie on the SW coast. Serves a wide variety of International and regional cuisine. Overlooks the Caribbean Sea in an open air casual decor. Has full service bar. 15-35 Naf
- Wilhelmina Plein Cafe located 200 meters East of the Floating Bridge in Punda, this cafe is a favorite among the island's many Dutch interns and businessmen. Wilhelmina Plein Cafe offers exclusively outside seating along a major pedestrian thoroughfare, with good food and one of the island's better beer selections. 18-28 NAF
- Vincent's Cafe Copa Cabana is a relatively hidden cafe just East of the Iguana Lounge's Main bar along the water on the Punda side of the bay. Skip the overpriced and mediocre waterfront restaurants on the Punda side and go to Vincent's for great sandwiches as well as a number of good daily special entree's. Vincent's is an outdoor Cafe under the shade of a number of trees and the two buildings between which it is sandwiched, which also create a very pleasant breeze. 8-20NAf. M-S Lunch - 6:30PM.
- Old Dutch Cafe Located on the Pietermaaiweg 500m East of the Bay on the Punda Side, the Old Dutch Cafe serves inexpensive Dutch cuisine with a Kitchen that stays open late into the night. 15-28 NAf. Closed Sundays.
- Kontiki Beach Club is a seaside restaurant offering good food in an idyllic location right on the beach. It is a little outside of the city, but it is well worth the short drive.
- La Granja is a Peruvian influenced local restaurant serving great latin cuisine, including excellent Whole Chicken, Lomo Saltado, and other great dishes. Sta Rosaweg 15-25 NAf. Open 7 days.
- Il Forno is a popular italian/pizza restaurant with two locations, (Caracasbaai location and Doormanweg location) serving European (though not Italian) style pizzas with fresh and delicious ingredients. 15-30 NAf.
- Kasbanini located in the Rif Fort, 100m South of the floating bridge on the Otrobanda Side, is probably the best of the Rif Fort's five or so mid level restaurants. Offering typical seafood and chops with a bit of local flair. 30-40 NAf. 7 Days, Lunch and Dinner.
- La Pergola located in the Old Fort on the Southwest Side of Punda, is likely the island's best italian restaurant. Offering good pasta dishes as well as a few innovative 'secondi', La Pergola's quaint waterfront view completes an excellent dining experience. 25-40 NAf.
- Ay Caramba is an American restaurant offering excellent American pub-grub with Tex Mex offerings as Well Located just below the Governeur Restaurant.
- Golden Star is located on the Dr. W.P. Maalweg, on the way to Salinja. It serves local creole food and drinks, and is a good value for the amount of food you get. Prices vary from 15-25 NAf for a main course with sides.
Bistro Le Clochard
- Bistro le Clochard, located in the Rif Fort, offering outstanding French Cuisine with a beautiful waterfront view, Bistro le Clochard is an excellent restaurant with superlative service. Open 7 days. 50-80 NAf
- Scultpure Garden Restaurant located in the Kura Hulanda Hotel one block West of the Governeur Restaurant, Sculpture Garden offers excellent international cuisine with some very innovative specials
- Amstel Bright Beer. Amstel Bright is a beer locally brewed by Antillaanse Brouwerij which is a subsidy of Heineken International. It is a pale style lager an usually served with a wedge of lime.
- Curacao, . is famous for the blue alcoholic beverage of the same name, now also available in yellow/gold. It is made from bitter oranges grown on the island.
- Tap Water. which comes from a large seawater desalination distillation plant, is excellent tasting and perfectly safe for consumption.
- Breezes Curaçao, Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd 78, Willemstad,Curaçao, ☎ +599 97367888, . Breezes Curaçao is an all inclusive beachfront resort. It includes three restaurants; Jimmy's Buffet(Continental and Island Dishes), Pastafari (Italian-style), and Munasan (Japanese Cuisine), plus a beach grill, and a children's snack bar
- Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino  has excellent restaurants such as the Portofino Restaurant and the Seabreeze Bar and Grill, which specialize in local dishes and fresh seafood.
- Flamingo Villa, St. Willibrordus, Curacao, . Stay in a luxury villa that sleeps 12 people with a private pool and overlooks the magnificent Caribbean Sea. Email: [email protected]
- Hilton Curaçao, John F Kennedy Boulevard PO Box 2133, Willemstad,Curaçao, ☎ +599 9 462-5000 (fax: +599 9 462-5846), . Email: [email protected]
- Hotel Scharloo, van den Brandhofstraat 12, Willemstad,Curaçao, ☎ +599 94651012, . It's a new hotel in town, an old colonial building that has been totally restored. Email: [email protected]
Safety is not a big issue on Curacao. The locals are friendly, welcoming, and willing to give assistance. After all, a major part of their island's income comes from tourists. Just take normal precautions and use common sense.
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